Animini: Natsume Book of Friends – Episode 6 – The Sparrow at the Bottom of the Lake

Sobby and Sniffly Salutations my Island Guests! Natsume let me feel stuff again! I kind of cried for a character I saw in a single episode again! Well not really cried but I was misty eyed nonetheless. This might be the first thing I am not giving a perfect score despite making me cry! It came very close.. but it just missed out! In this blog I will discuss the 6th episode of Natsume Book of Friends.

The Summary

Natsume and his friends, I think,  are taking a bike tour when they come across a “drowned” village.  A village that got flooded and abandoned by building a dam. Of course Natsume sees a present but his friends, I think,  do not.  The addition to the “i think” comes from  the fact that I don’t really know anything about them. They are always around him and interact with Natsume regularly but he doesn’t really seem to hang out with them.. except for this time. I assume they are friends but they also could be a study group or something!  Regardless, Natsume sees something.. it fades.. then with a whoosh of wind he is knocked out. He wakes up at home, the doctor tells he has a heat stroke but we soon find out he is possessed. He finds this out by returning the names of a few Yokai who dwell in the drowned city. In return for helping him they give him a magic mirror that allows him to discover the possession. Nyanko pushes off the spirit and as it leaps for Natsume.. Donned in a Swallow mask, Natsume punches it. The mask breaks and it is revealed a girl wearing an eye veil is underneath..with pure intentions.

She wants to see someone again, for one final time before her spiritual energy grows too weak and she fades away. This is her dream and Natsume takes a liking to her and decides to help Madara/Nyanko’s Chagrin. His “friends” help him get an address for this man and while Natsume and the girl yokai go look for the man they begin to bond a bit. Natsume learns this girl named Tsubame (meaning Swallow)  was once a Baby Swallow who fell out of the nest.  A kind human put her back in the nest…but since it now was tainted with human scent the parents abandon the nest and Tsubame cries for food..while seeing her brothers and sister starve.  Blaming herself the resentment caused her to transform into what she calls a demon. This demon hid from the world.. but a kind man kept feeding her every day.. this is the man she wants to meet again. She does.. and while waving at him happily and talking to him he ignores her.. unable to see her. Tsubame says she is super glad she got to do this but it is not enough for Natsume.. he wants her to actually talk to the man. To help her he attends a festival  of Yokai .. led by the guy who gave him the magic mirror earlier.   The Yokai can win a Yukata that allows them to appear as humans for a day. Even though the spirit plans to eat Natsume he is determined to compete and win for Tsubame’s sake.  With the help of Madara he does so. He gives Tsubame the yukata and says his goodbye.. never seeing her again. A few days later he asks the man if he ever saw Tsubame and the man shows him a picture of them attending a festival together. Natsume sobs a bit.. glad his new friend got what she wished for and looked happy..but also clearly sad he will never see her again.

The Positives

I loved Tsubame myself.. and the last line.. to think that she is gone already made me super sad.  She is voice acted great and drawn great and written great. You just start to care for her. When Natsume tells she is slowly losing strength I genuinely was genuinely worried for her.  The way she waves to that person that is so important to her.. telling him all sorts of things with a smile on her face while clearly she must know he can not hear her really pulled my heartstrings!  It is also good to see Natsume form an actual bond for once. This is not an act of convenience,  or because it is right or because he wants to figure out more about his grandma.. no Natsume has taken a shine to this “person” and enjoyed her company and spirit and wishes to see things end well for. Much like with the tiny guardian. I found myself quite infatuated with this swallow girl and her story.. despite being quite generic and birdlike made me look at it from the fletchling perspective. Poor little birds slowly starving. The idea of seeing your brothers and sisters get abandoned because you messed up.. and got greeted with an act of kindness.. it really worked for me and became something bigger.

I also like the idea of Natsume acting with the spirit world a lot. He punches the spirit, he races against them,  he gets a magical item from their world and uses it to further his agenda.. (though selfless). It makes the world of Yokai a lot bigger  than just the names in the book. Where I compared  it with an inverse Pokemon after the first episode I now realise that analysis is incorrect because these Yokai are much more people with their own little world for us to understand. Their own bonds, their own emotions and now even their own items and culture! Do take note though that I like the idea.. not the way it is executed, more on that in a little bit. The series is working towards expanding its possibilities and does so early on so it can not fall into a hole and I really like that. The hug Natsume got also feels like the first reward he really got.. it might seem tiny.. but it is something and I really needed to see that.

The Negatives

Had this episode only featured Tsubame I would have easily given this my highest rating yet! I really love that character A LOT more than I should do for a one episode character. The other Yokai in this episode though.. are a problem. They aren’t bad persé.. but it is like  putting Merryl Streep in a movie with Tyler Perry or with Will Arnett.  You know the latter two will be completely blown away by the former. The tournament host and magic mirror guy feels a bit forced.. he transforms into the same type of demon Madara is and they scuffle for a bit but it isn’t that interesting. It feels a bit soap-opera-like .. exposition needed to tell the real tale. I like the Kimono as a magic item, the race kind of feels forced however.  There is a Kimono stuck in a tree and all Yokai must race there without using their Yokai powers.  Natsume goes undercover but has too short legs  to win.. it all feels a bit nothingy.. while I do get we see Madara start to care for Natsume here.. I feel this could have been done in a much more interesting way.

The race also offers another problem, the plot feels a tad messy. This is in part due to the fact that Natsume has to attend a Festival one day, so Tsubame can attend another. Kind of like forcing Cinderella to win a dance-off to win tickets for the ball. I didn’t really like that structure. Also how did Natsume know where the other guy is while he was out racing Yokai, I doubt he could track the guy during all that. It just felt really weird and awkward to me. The other spirit is just so weakly written. I give you a peek in this magic mirror. .. which turns out just the thing to start the plot. He is an engine and not a very well written one and it takes some serious shine out of an otherwise amazing episode.

The Score

I loved half of this episode and I truly mean loved!  Man if I ever become a mother I am gonna starve all my kids hopefully the last survivor will be as great as Tsubame. It is great to see a more alive and emotional Natsume, even though seeing him cry made me get some tissues.  I love how this show can invoke those feelings and this is the third time it did.  It did it in a much more raw way then episode 2 and 4 as well …  jeez even numbered episodes rule in this series so far.   Had this episode been pure between Natsume and the little Swallow I would have had my new favourite episode of the show. The good in this episode isn’t just good!  It really is amazing.

Unfortunately the rest of this episode kind of feels half baked. The rest of what we see is not that much more than exposition or plot convenience.  I am super happy they chose to keep these events separate from Tsubame but in a way that also makes it worse.. you know.. as if they are aware of the fact that this part of content isn’t as good.  The pacing in the Tsubame bits is great and I LOVE the idea of Natsume never seeing her again.. and being insecure ..but so curious he talks to a stranger, which seems very against character.. it shows how much he cares.  Yet the pacing with the other spirit is quite poor. The race had no Oomph what so ever and even Nyanko/Madara’s decision to help Natsume was overshadowed by its “let’s get this over with.. we have a better story to tell” pacing. It’s like having a delicious meatball and some vegetables but not really a way to call it a dish so you pour on some water and some noodles and call it ramen.  The meatball is still exceptional but now that is part of a dish it will only be described as good.

Animini: Hikaru no Go – Episode 26 – Welcome to the A-League

Screwed Tightly Salutations, my dear Island Guests.  The series of Hikaru no Go has been impressing me a lot lately, with only some minor complaints. Having such a run has the effect of increased expectations and while I still really enjoyed the episode this week , this episode kind of fell victim to the heightened bar , sort of speak. It’s one of those episodes you watch with a smile.. but when people ask you have to admit, I’ve seen better.

The Summary

Wakajishisen is drawing closer.. and might I add.. that’s a pretty difficult thing to write.. so from here on I shall call it the Tournament against the Pro players….probably.   To reach this Hikaru has to reach 16th seat in A-Class. Luckily for Hikaru the episode starts off with him holding a sheet to Waya showing he has been promoted to A-Class. Seemingly kind of to the chagrin of Waya..who still thinks the bottom of A-Class is too low. Isumi corrects him and is more supportive of Hikaru. That boy that randomly shows up, I now know is named Fuku is being loud while Hikaru only sees the positive. When you expect him to first experience a few losses in A-class like happend to him in B-Class you’d be wrong. We see Hikaru win his first match. This match is against a spectacled kid who really thinks long about his moves, taking Hikaru out of his game a bit.  In the end though we see the more impulsive and instinctive Hikaru is still able to pull out the win. His second match is against Fuku.. who is almost a mirror of Hikaru’s playstyle. The two are having a lot of fun together but Hikaru does manage to pull out the win.

We then move a bit of exposition and revisiting the past. While talking about great players Waya brings up Sai, how he met a player online and how he believes it was a person in school. We briefly go over the important victories of the Internet-Go arc but from Waya’s perspective Hikaru begins to find out who faced Sai in online matches. Waya is Hikaru’s third match in A-league and the talk about internet go continues. In his enthusiasm Hikaru blurts out he knows Waya’s internet handle.. making Waya think Hikaru might be Sai.. he actually figures out the truth that Sai is most likely Hikaru’s teacher as he can sense the essence of Sai in Hikaru’s moves but more unrefined. The blonde player lies though and makes up a story of having been in the internet café and just happening to see the message and Waya drops it for now.. he also drops his guard and loses his game. Hikaru also wins his fourth match… and none after that. However Hikaru did perform well enough to qualify for the tournament.. in the bottom slot again.  A group of Waya, Isumi, Ginger Weevil Underwood, Pink Cardigan Girl and Drawns-as-if-he-isn’t important guy join Hikaru in a Mc-Donals like Restaurant where they discuss the tournament.  We end with Ogata antagonising Akira a bit and in the final scene we see Tsutsui and Kaga leave school. Akiri cries and shakes his hand and Hikaru says his goodbyes to the two being wished success as an Insei.

The Positives

Yet again this show does a great job at showing Hikaru’s progress in a fairly organic way. His strength can be measured, yet we also establish more flaws for him to overcome. We see him being an impatient player still, so even if it is not shown, we know he is prone to make mistakes. We also see he can get quite easily distracted. In Waya’s match he has trouble keeping his head in the game.. though his opponent is met with similar conditions.  In a way this establishes the sense that Hikaru hasn’t stopped growing yet and it is not his classmates who stand in his way, but mostly himself. He remains kind of sloppy and unfocussed yet has this great “hunch”.  In other words we really see his innate ability as a Go-Player and not so much the experienced Go-Player. Last week we kind of saw that experience being tackled to take the new step. So in a way we really quite literally see Hikaru climb a stair. He moves up one foot, his innate talent, but can not go further unless he addresses his experience, we see him improve that and now we have to see him feed that flame from within yet again. I really like this way of handling things. It makes things so much more… real.

I am also happy we at least got to see a bit of Tsutsui and Kaga again, it will probably be the last.. and it did not end satisfyingly.. but the chapter feels closed for me now at least. Yet again it also serves as a very subtle reminder to tell us what time of year it is with the terms of school coming to close. This means that about two months have passed since Touya’s match against Oza. It helps put Hikaru’s growth in perspective but also makes it seem fast. We just have such a great sense of how the overall story progresses I am really impressed. This is also reflected in how his class treats him. While we have only seen a few matches the group really treats him quite familiarly. Pink Cardigan girl (I do not know her name at all)  and Isumi are some of the best examples.  We did not see that much interactions before..  yet now they all hang out together. It is something not a lot of anime do.. bonds happen on screen only which causes the show to trip up! Hikaru no Go however is super consistent and feels almost as if someone is retelling their experience through anime…. minus the ghost part.

The Negatives

That being said however, I did not nearly enjoy this episode as much as some of the previous ones. While the world pacing is nice.. I feel the episode pasing is a bit wonky.  It’s just match after match after match and instead of learning something Hikaru coasts through this on sheer talent. That once again is great in the sense of the series.. but as an episode  it isn’t that particularly interesting. These matches are a bit more empty.. there is no gain from it other than getting Hikaru to Wakajishisen.  We do not really get to see Waya’s playstyle. It’s nice that we see Fuku being more established but Glasses guy.. and “looking at a victory sheet nervously guy”  I have not seen before.. they feel more empty so a part of the episode feels “hollow”. We see Hikaru take a couple of losses through a stylised bit (and I do like the visual)  but I would have liked it if we had skipped “looking at Hikaru’s victory sheet Nervously guy” just seeing Hikaru mention getting that win and then show him taking an L against Pink Cardigan girl or even better Isumi. Both have been shown more before and it would have offered more weight.

I am also not sure how I feel about Hikaru just being promoted to A class from the start. I think I would have preferred to see another episode. Perhaps one that is more focussed around the inevitable goodbye of Tsutsui and Kaga, while Hikaru is fighting the top members of B class. This would fix two issues. The way Tsutsui got kicked to the curb (and to a lesser extent Kaga) and the empty matches.  There would be more at stake.  At the very least the episode could have been  a bit more about the goodbye. A lot of the exposition about “Sai”  was not needed. We get told something we have experienced already. I get these two characters don’t know stuff from each other but it really lingers on this talk. We as the viewer KNOW this stuff so I feel it could have been shortened with a bit more focus on new stuff. Now the weight of the episode lies in something we already knew and that feels a bit like a shame given that some other characters really deserved that screen time.

The Score

In no way this is a bad episode, it is just an episode that I think had it’s priorities wrong.  It feels almost as if I skipped an episode as the build up to this could be a bit more dramatic and now felt.. slightly unearned. The pass towards the next episode IS earned .. that doesn’t help but feel like we skipped a step.  I would have preferred to see Hikaru win against Waya in a more proper match… I am all for him winning against Fuku but for Waya I feel like Hikaru should have used “something” .. like playing fast to disrupt Waya.. he had enough info to do so .. it feels right that he won.. but it also feels a bit empty because I do not think it was handled quite right.

That being said it was a strong episode with lots of subtle implications, and that as a piece of the puzzle is a lot stronger than it is as a single episode.  The fact that Hikaru’s growth is tiered is delightful to see and that several factors contribute to that growth more than I could have wished for.  I can only applaud the show for being so consistent in it’s world building… if anything I had trouble with the “scene choice”  Within that timeframe I would have picked a few different ones.. but in the end the tale that this episode tries to tell is quite enjoyable. I do have to judge this episode on it’s own merits though and for that.. given what has been done before is just not AS good. It’s a fine episode but that is where it ends for me.

Animini: Revolutionary Girl Utena – Episode 3 – On the Night of the Ball

Steampunk themed greetings are hard everyone! So let’s just say Hello today! Hello! The first episode of Revolutionary Girl made me question if this would be a show for me. The second episode of Revolutionary Girl convinced me that it would be a great show!  THIS episode of Revolutionary girl … made me feel both. There was so much of this episode that I love, yet I also found myself not being particularly invested. Will I continue watching this show?! Let’s find it by breaking down this episode.

The Summary

This is the first episode that dives a bit deeper in the social culture of the school! The theme is friendship. Utena wants Anthy to make some friends, who dismisses her claims of not having friends by saying she has Chuchu! Which Utena acknowledges but she adds a but everytime she does. Also showing Chuchu’s silly antics. Utena wants to make Anthy a bit less uptight and tells her to drop the honorifics around her! Unfortunately this fails to leave an when the entire school uses those same honorifics. Anthy tells her she has to because she is her bride. Utena doesn’t agree with that and says she might dress like a boy.. she still wants to find a regular boy. Really Utena?!  This for me feels odd, given how interested she was in Anthy in the first part and her self claimed mission is to be a prince that saves a princess. Before I had a bit of a role reversal fairy tale vibe and this moment really brings us back to the classical moment. Especially since she seems kind of, but not really ,  interested in Student Council President Touga Kiriyuu. Him having a ring really surprises her and makes her think he is her prince. Didn’t the green haired guy already tell her this?! Doesn’t he need a ring to enter that dueling grounds.. so would it not be clear there are more rings?!  Am I missing something here?! Why would she be into the kind of flattery he provides?! She snaps herself out of it to keep her image.. but it feels like she could go for this guy!

The second half of the episode starts with the introduction of Nanami , Touga’s sister.   She saves Anthy from being bullied, she informs the woman that she has been nominated for queen of the ball. Now I should probably think the student council and the battle of the rose has anything to do with it.. but there was only one word that popped up in my mind. Carry! Anthy will be bullied at the ball. I just knew it and after a lot of social debate whether she should go or not, that hinged on if Utena would come along in her Frilly dress or not  that’s exactly what happened. WHile Utena is distracted by Touga it is revealed that Nanami is jealous of Anthy as her brother keeps talking about the Rose Bride.. and she wants to embarrass her. So she gave the woman a dress that dissolves when it gets wet and spills champagne all over Anthy. Seeing her friend in trouble, Utena tosses off her dress revealing her male uniform beneath it. She struts to a now naked and embarrassed Anthy and pulls a tablecloth spilling all the punch and snacks!  She puts the table cloth over Anthy which becomes a pretty white dress! Together they dance and give Anthy a bit of a nicer social evening, while Touga gushes over Utena , Nanami will exact revenge upon her.

The Positives

There was a lot to like about this episode! Utena being forced in a dress is the first time we see the character really outside the comfort zone. She has always stayed quite composed  even when it was announced Anthy is now her fiancée .  She just ignores it and cool headedly walks on. However walking around in a cute pink frizzy dress sends her over the edge a bit. We also see her a bit embarrassed by all the flattery of the girls earlier, so it is quite nice that for once we don’t just see “powerchick” Utena. Her concern for Anthy’s lack of a social life is nice as well but it would be more compelling if we see Utena do fun stuff with her friends before. Now we mostly see her classmate and friend bother her a bit and nearly kill her  by jumping on her back while Utena is looking at Bishounen Men!  Still quite cute and it makes her such a good guy character.  I also really like how she still refuses to play by the rules of some silly game, even if everyone else takes it super seriously. She lacks the context so she doesn’t believe in it.  The mystery of the rose ring is kind of being made more compelling as well now.. though I really think she should have noticed the ring on the green haired guy as well! From a narrative stance I also like Nanami as a rival of sorts. The game of the rose kind of made this a bit tricky before, as everyone just plays so neatly by the rules there was no sense of a threat. While petty pranks might not be severe it at least adds some tension!

What I like best is the second half of the episode!  It’s great to see this type of show deviate early from the “monster of the week” format. It could have been easily done that Utena just has to fight duel after duel and I had come to expect that and this episode shows me, it doesn’t do that. There are some heavy cinderella vibes in here as well and I really like fairy tales mixing with anime! This episode really warmed my heart.. mostly. Utena just doing right, the cute dance scene. Even that weird Black Butler like.. voila.. this table cloth is now a dress , thing.  I really dig it and enjoy myself just watching stuff unfold!  A lot of stuff happening is really pleasing to me! I am enjoying myself.. yet I do not find myself as captivated as with other shows still.

The Negatives

I oftenly measure how good I think an episode is based on the number of times I made a screenshot! I do that as I watch I just capture the screen a few times. The less I do this the more engaged I am.. sometimes resulting in the relatively bad screenshots! As I have little to work with! Utena however I consistently have lots of screenshots for and the reason is .. I am not THAT engaged.  I am having fun.. but I am not sucked in. The feeling stems from what I feel like is a bit of an inconsistent main character.  The first episode I could have sworn Utena was all over Anthy.. now she almost takes a motherly role, while in the second she takes a shine to Chuchu more then to Anthy..but Chuchu sleeps with Utena?!  She wants to find a boy despite her mission of being a prince ? She also wants to find her prince?!  THat is not really what the opening narrative told us.  I get why.. because the prince depicted in the story is clearly related in some shape or form to Anthy.. having the same skin tone and almost the same hair… but this is why I do not believe this curveball works! At all!

When I compare this to Cowboy Bebop which I will classify as Timeless, Utena has a much more 90’s feeling into it! While seemingly having a progressive message, I find the story telling to be less careful. A dress that dissolves when wet?! I have never encountered such a thing .. I am sure it exists but would you not feel something being off with the fabric.   While I get why Utena thinks Anthy has friends, why does Anthy blindly trust in the legitimacy of this?! Touga’s design seems quite Pegasus like (the yugioh guy)  it might be because of his mysterious council and the dark music that plays around him but I can NOT see him as a viable partner for Utena..all the warning flags are up that he will not be a good partner for her. If it turns out he is good and being her partner I will stand corrected.. but it feels so telegraphed that it’s not.. so I am not invested in that fake out! One again this show is very obvious and I am not sure if that is my thing.

The Score

On the one hand I got a delightfully entertaining episode that on it’s own kept me quite entertained. Without having seen the opening, without having heard the villainous music that plays when he is sitting with his council members, without his fairly evil-like design I might be into this more. If the show is teaching me not to judge a book by it’s cover by baiting me into believing he is a bad guy…credits to them! It is working! So maybe this is really good..  The story beats this episodes follow on it’s own are great and the Ballroom dance was quite touching! I was happy to see Anthy smile like that and to have fun with Utena at the prom! I even liked the introduction of Nanami.. it prevents the show from becoming mostly a “boys versus girls” type of show. I also like the Oujousama type and she seems like she just might be one!  I am curious to find out what happens with her.

Yet I can not shake this feeling the show isn’t doing enough to keep me pulled in. I feel adrift , not knowing what to expect from Utena because I ‘ve seen three pretty different versions so far.  Some choices the show makes are seemingly too obvious! I might be deceived here.. but if I am not.. they are really not doing well on the subterfuge end. It’s like having Maine Qaraqtar as a lead.. and she has two options for love Rho Mance and  Red Harrington.  Then you ask your audience to be engaged with the “totally real” romance between Maine Qarqtar and Red Harrington!  Yeah Right! I just don’t believe it. Regardless of the show is fooling me or Failing to fool me, the fact that I don’t buy Touga x Utena knocks this episode down to just being fine.

Animini: That Time I Reicarnated as a Slime – Episode 21 Shizu-san’s Students

Geared Greetings Island Guests!  Just when I thought I was out they PULLED me back in! It’s a famous movie quote.. from I think Godfather.. one of those kinds of movies anyway!   Yet it also applies to this episode of Slime! FINALLY I had an episode I could enjoy again!  I am really grateful for that. This show was about to lose me!  Yet I am back!

The Summary

We begin this episode exactly where the last episode left off! Rimuru is standing in front of his class and they aren’t being very respectful to him, freezing out the new teacher like classical kids stuff! Which is quite cute! Rimuru then summons Ranga to command some respect and it kind of works! They fear him and say their names.. but to earn their trust Rimuru must first gain their respect!  This is achieved by a one on one against all the children. Hoping that they might burn out some of that magic energy that is killing them. And thus we get introduced to a few new characters in a fairly organic way!   I especially like Chloe Aubert who attacks with her plushies and the other girl who fights as quite the clever mage. Using alteration and evocation at the same time! That is quite cool!  I also like how the boys more or less reflect the Barbarian, The Monk  and The Fighter in a way and everyone feels quite distinct. Kenya feels quite like Shizu so I was afraid they would all be “imprinted” on her and mimc her in some shape, way or form but no this is quite the diverse troupe.

The children get defeated easily by Rimuru and he takes an antagonistic stance with them.. saying they will never surpass him! He gets them fired up. Then we get a timeskip a few years later. Rimuru visits Treyni because he will try to put natural spirits inside the children, much like what happened to Shizu, but hopefully less harmful.  She knows of the place but does not know an entrance.. so for the entire timeskip Rimuru is stuck without a clue!  A picnic however leads to new discoveries. When a Dragon attacks the capital, Rimuru saves a slightly shady merchant, who invites him to his home. Yuuki says the guy is safe so Rimuru and his kids go to visit the merchant. A trade deal with the town might be established.  A woman living with the merchant (not sure if she is his wife) offers the child a prayer. It draws Rimuru’s attention because that prayer talks about Nature Spirits. The slime pays the woman, for the info and travels with the children.. in an attempt to keep them safe. 

The Positives

So this episode is much much MUCH better, then the past five episodes! While there are  still a few silly writing moments , the show does benefit from the smaller scope of things. I hate to say it but it’s writing isn’t strong enough to do the large political things this show tried to do before! Rimuru’s stories can be cute.. but the show has been aiming for this larger than life, interconnected world. It isn’t strong enough!  This episode ditches that feeling and makes the story much more self contained around Rimuru!  It doesn’t feel like  the world revolves around Rimuru anymore and I am very thankful for it.  The children’s style of fighting is cute as well! You really feel like you see children play fight only this time it’s real.. but it has that level of being unrefined.  That makes this episode feel a lot cosier and the jokes land because of it!  Rimuru bribing the children with Manga works a lot better than him spitting out an entire library for Yuuki! It just cute!

I also must say I like the overpowered Rimuru a lot better than the underpowered one.  The dragon our slime protagonist fights gets one shotted by him so easily!  It feels so much better than the whole Charybdis fight. As much as I can appreciate there being more powerful creatures than Rimuru,  when you don’t have consequences, which is a fine choice to make lots of other anime make as well,  there is no point.  Making Rimuru more OP and feel powerful again makes it so much more comfy.. there isn’t that sense of let down and you just end up smiling!  The pay off is right because we want to see Rimuru do well! This episode nails that appeal this show had for me .. so I really like it!

The Negatives

The episode does suffer a bit from the same writing flaws the previous episode does, but it feels less obnoxious. However like last episode it does strain your ability to suspend your disbelief. As fun as Chloe’s puppetry is , how did those plushies survive playing with her friends?  Why is that Rimuru who sees a dragon approach town it takes him EXACTLY enough time to catch up to the dragon while he is that much more powerful. It isn’t bad. I just saw it done better so I think it is fair to shout it out. Stuff like how Rimuru now can make Manga without having to have eaten paper first, maybe he had it prepared, I am not sure! It’s a chain of events that just feels a bit too easy! I compare it to Bofuri and Digimon, where the story is also very straight forward but the story in Digimon is more molded around the characters, here it sometimes feels like the other way around.

The other negative is the excessive narration Rimuru does in this episode. Normally he does narrate events happening in his village, but on a much bigger scale. You can not show building a village because  a real time visual doesn’t represent that. So of course Rimuru has to narrate. However in this episode it is very present and not for stuff you have to use it for. For example Rimuru goes on a long talk on how he paid the woman for her info. Why is that narrated? We see the scene happen. Sure it happens in the back end of the episode and it bridges into traveling but it happens a lot of times. It feels very “expositionny”  It is a far cry from the bad stuff in the past few episodes, just a bit sloppy!

The Score

Compared with the “I want to Drop this” episodes of the past few weeks, this felt like a total breath of fresh air. My critiques mostly stem from me being soured to the show so much! I am in that place where I am happy that it went the route it went.. but I am also kind of sour that THIS is all I wanted. I never needed this to be that super deep series with factions and betrayals and other stuff. The fact that this show can be this charming.. made me miss that so much and that is both feels amazing.. but also kinda painful! The flaws this episode have I’d easily forgive.. if it came anywhere but after the Charybdis arc.

What we got was a great episode,  that was fun, it did what it had to do, did some clever and colourful things.. whose only gripe is that it feels a bit “lazy”. I want to make sure Chloe is fine.. so she can be a great mamma to her plushies and have a lot of fun playing with them.  I want to see if they get a better spirit guardian then the Ifrit..because this plan.. I am not sure about this plan! This episode made me go from “I will finish the season but will pass on the second season  to, I might watch the second season when it comes out.. at least give it a chance.. So while I can’t justify my highest score.. the effect that this episode has had on me is huge!

Animini: Samurai Flamenco – Final Episode – Naked Samurai Flamenco!

Steam Salutations .. and this time the steam is from a little bit of an unexpected ending! For a moment there my face went red as we concluded Samurai Flamenco. Last episode I was super hopeful.. the week before that I felt utter despair. I felt episode 18 was the perfect ending to a show.. and in a way it was.. but the ending in episode 22 is a lot more satisfying. Though also a bit less perfect. Goodbye Samurai Flamenco.. let’s review you one last time!

The Summary

The episode begins with an origin story for Goto, which is not a good sign considering he just had a gun pointed at him and the trigger being pulled.  We see how he got his Girlfriends phone and slowly lost his mind trying to offer himself solace.  One message in particular highlighted the last message she truely sent him. In retrospect it is kind of weird that so many years have passed and no one notices how old of a flip phone he was using..and the fact that a telephone survived for that lone.. but oh well. The shot misses and we see Hajii reveal his real plan. He wants to transform Samurai Flamenco into a Dark Hero, by seeing his best friend kill his rival. Causing him trauma he can not forget.  So that means Goto has to kill Hajii to make this happen.. Hajii angers him by deleting all of Goto’s girlfriends messages including the final message she sent him.  This causes the poor man to properly lose his marbles and he swears to kill the young boy and then Masayoshi steps in.

Hajii tries to force him into his Samurai Flamenco costume but Masayoshi refuses.. he instead gets naked! Saying the two have to find love together and he will fight Hajii as Masayoshi not as Samurai Flamenco!  During their scuffle Goto gets the keys to his handcuffs and the gun and he wants to kill Hajii but Masayoshi stands in his way.. trying to talk him out of this. He does this by….proposing to Goto, still very naked. Goto calls Masayoshi stupid.. but doesn’t turn down the proposal, and the two call each other Baka and Aho for about 4 minutes or so.  Masayoshi realises he truly loves Goto and can not allow him to be corrupted and the end their standoff. Goto lowers the run. Masayoshi goes to Goto but what happens then is blocked by Mari who pops into the screen and beats Hajii up! Goto and Masyoshi talk and we see the criminal boy get kicked in the balls by Mari. A timeskip later and we see everyone being happy again. A sentai museum is opening and the flamengers are all there, Mari and Moe and Mizuki are having concerts again and Masayoshi visits Hajii in jail.. saying he wants to see him change. When he exits Goto is waiting for him and the two walk to the museum together.. Goto has a new phone and when someone litters, Masayoshi transforms into Samurai Flamenco once more.. chasing the litterer leaving a smiling Goto behind

The Positives

So apparently there is a manga that is set after this where Goto and Masayoshi live together, there is also a card game that shows their wedding. I am not sure if it is canon but my does that make this twist ending delightful. Those two would make a great couple.. and it does give Goto some peace of mind. That smile he has at the end.. that is great! And YAY Hajii was real! Thank Arceus for that.. I would have cried if he wasn’t.. Goto and Masayoshi becoming an item at the end was not what I had expected for an ending.. but last week I already expected an ending I would not expect.. and BOY did that deliver.  This really might be one of my favourite endings of a show.  Which admittedly also might seem so amazing because I was kind  expecting a trainwreck. But the ending is just so sweet and adorable.. and it is kind of neat that the final battle had to be fought as Masayoshi not as Samurai Flamenco it really was a nice turn that was properly set up.

The epilogue also delivered on the satisfaction. The opening to the museum works great as a visual callback , the walk of Goto and Masayoshi is super cute and a little bit loaded.. you want them to spill the beans and see if we can find out what happened to the proposal but it wisely never does. Even if Bromance.. with the B potentially between brackets  is not for you, you can take the ending anyway you like. They could just be palls! The extended universe makes them more.. but it is totally up to you if that counts yay or nay! Smart! We see everyone happy, and that whole World President stuff is also conveniently dropped which makes it a lot more airy and digestible.. it keeps Masayoshi as an innocent young man who hasn’t changed all that much yet realised something very important in his life. While he hasn’t changed he has become a much more complete man and that is enough.. that is what makes this show great in the end.  I still think episode 18 would have been a good enough place to end as Samurai Flamenco.. yet episode 22 is a much better place to end as Masayoshi.. and I like that there is a difference.

The Negatives

For me, Masayoshi did not have to go naked. The scene would have worked just as well in his boxers or even his underwear.  Metaphorically naked would have worked as well. It would not have weirded Hajii out as much maybe.. but I am not sure if him being weirded out mattered that much. Was it just so Goto got to see him naked? Am I missing something here?! To be fair I do not get weirded out or shocked from a naked person because I don’t really believe in that Taboo. A naked person doesn’t go much for me let alone a drawn one.. and we don’t even get to see anything.. it’s more like the Austin Powers implied Naked that is cleverly covered up in each shot. Somewhere I get it.. as it is pure Masayoshi.. no hiding behind anything.. but again underwear would have been enough.

That stupid random adoption scene from ther last episode has no impact here, we do see the Flamengers, but mostly it’s just Lady Axe calling Pink a sow other than that they are just impressed with the Museum.. also Black’s Grandpa is fine which is nice but I can not help that because of that random episode this felt like the least conclusive and satisying endings.. the rest got all closed up nicely but there was a bit of unfinished buisness left.  Like I said last week the parents of Haji indeed helped him fake his death as it turns out which makes sense enough.. but Kono only NOW finds out they are kind of worried about what he has been doing with this?! The boy has been dead for a year you know.  It seems kind of weird that his parents would not have any idea. Where does he store his explosives, can they never hear any phone calls he makes, how does he learn to infiltrate an apartment.  You can do a lot in a year but making the parents completely oblivious makes them horrible people in my eyes. Just allow him to do this or something because they are just as crazy obsessed with him as he is with Masayoshi or something. Now it is kinda hokey?!

The Score

I can rest at ease now and leave this series with a huge smile on my face. The twist ending was lovably weird but also quite in line with the show! A bromance moving into a romance….. which is how I take that ending is a great way to break up the stale trope of the hero being alone. Not only do we get closure, Goto get’s closure.. and while his behaviour in episode 20 still kind of disgusts me he has suffered enough. The fact that he doesn’t completely let go.. shows he is crazy enough to be with Masayoshi as well and the fact that almost all other people except for Goto have been using smartphones did kind make the scene better.. but still it kind of feels like someone is playing on their Iphone 10 next to someone with an iPhone 4…Mari, as shallow as she is would be bound to notice!

It’s a great final episode that has a few logic leaps that make the pay off not AS strong as it could have been.. but it’s one of those ending.. where you do not care about that. Is it perfect no!  Have I seen shows with stronger endings.. I most certainly did… yet I have said this before.. I do distinguish BEST and favourite. If someone asks me for the best anime I have ever seen, I would struggle to find an answer and probably end up with Spirited Away or one of the Ghibli movies.. if they ask for my favourite I say Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.  From what I have heard Cowboy Bebop has one of the best endings in anime.. though tragic, (I have yet to see it myself)  but my favourite ending… it might very well be this one! So this end gets one heck of a subjective Star Fruit! Thank you for existing Samurai Flamenco! And Moe.. my sweet summer flower, I am glad you are okay!

Animini: Digimon Adventure – Episode 15- Zudomon’s Iron Hammer of Lighting

Salutations my sweet Island guests. It is time to get back into gear and review some anime! Starting with Digimon!   Last week we had a great week and even though the last episode was quite good , it ended  up as one of the weaker in my top seven. Very good sometimes doesn’t cut it!  Well.. this week this show offers some stiff competition for the fight at the top! As we include with the “final”  of the ultimate evolutions in an episode dedicated to Joe.

The Summary

Let’s get started.. and me just say.. this might be a confusing episode.. because the entire plot revolves around a group of evil digimon chasing the group again. Yukidarumon form the soldiery grunts of the group but they are led by the ultimate digimon Mammon. Why is this confusing?! Well because I know these digimon as Frigimon and Mammothmon. Both Digimon were changed for the dub.. one because it’s named after a demon and the other because it did not make a lot of sense in English I guess?!  Regardless.. the setting is an Icey hill. Birdramon needs to recover her energy and when the group lands they get attacked by a group of snowmen bears.. called Yukidarumon/Frigimon and a Huge mammoth, with ripped Dumbo style ears and a metal mask on it’s face and trunk!  When one of the Yukidarumon punches Sora.. she begins to slowly freeze to death from the inside.  The only way this attack can be negated is by thawing out the digital ice inside her. So she needs a fire.. but there is a problem! The group is being chased by a superior force. Making a fire would reveal their position.

Piyomon is too worried about Sora to Digivolve and seriously drains energy from the prolonged  flying. So One digimon has to stay with her all the time to protect her. Yamato is chosen for this role. He is the fastest, and can pull ahead of the group while Joe and Gomamon distract the group. Meanwhile we get a small subplot of the other group where Mimi sees a cute Digimon and tries to make it her mount.. resulting in (comical) disaster.  Joe has seen Sora and Yamato step up when it was their time.. but he ended up feeling afraid .. and invalidated all the time. After all … he is the groups oldest and he feels he is not living up to that role!  When things seem at their darkest and the plan to get away from the group fails Joe is met with a choice! Fight by himself and rely on Yamato or stick up for the group.. risk himself and keep Sora safe. He lies to Yamato and says he has the situation under control, now having to deal with the Ultimate Digimon alone. Wanting to be useful to the group and knowing Sora needs her defender.. fills the boy with a passion that allows him to Digivolve Ikakumon into Zudomon, who  uses his hammer and lighting.. to kick ass and take names. With this monster defeated.. it is time for the groups to reunite and face their biggest battle yet.

The Positives

While every episode is really simple I just love how they set up their episodes. Group 2 has Birdramon so obviously they would overburden her, of course that would make her vulnerable and of course that would mean Sora would try to defend her friend. So Sora being injured makes very much sense in the world they are trying to build. Of course Yamato would use his speed to take her out of the frey.. so we get a perfectly fine explanation while Joe has to fight alone! Ice and snow are not a good battlefield for him anyway so this is a great way to make Joe shine without making it feel obnoxious.  I also love how Joe attempts to use the terrain to his advantage.. but this backfires.. As if the show is talking to us! No! This is not Koshiro, this is Joe. Those tactics are not his strong suit.  His episode followed a few beats similar to Koshiro’s but we are reminded they are not the same.  Joe’s strength is never giving up, his ability to keep on trying even though he sees so many obstacles in his way. He stands up to that.. and conquers … with issue.. but he does.

This leads into the second thing that was great in this episode, the characterisation!  Sure the snowy fields are nice, and the movement on the slope is fun.. but it all pales in comparison to how great these characters are. The little moment of Mimi trying to make a Kiwimon into her mount.. fitting that princess theme again. The way Joe screams in panic for most of the episode.. but his realisation that there are things bigger than himself. It all feels unique. Nearly all the 6 episodes have the same format. Step 1: An Ultimate Shows up, Step 2: Bad Stuff happens , Step 3:  Someone is Separated from the group Step 4: After learning a lesson their digimon evolves to the next level. It happened Six times now.. and yet these episodes are VERY different from another. Joe is constantly overwhelmed.. he can not rely on his courage because it is not in his nature, he can not rely on his friends, he can not even face his own emotions because he would succumb to panic. No he has to solve this as Joe.. and the episode allows for that. Joe just really had to be there.. and it felt very different from what came before.

The Negatives

What the show does bad.. is what almost every show in an ice setting does bad. It’s what I call “white” stacking.  You make a fight set in snow, then make the enemies fight ice themed as well.. such as a yeti or in this case a white bear.  Then you set everything on a mountain, because skiing and snow are so intertwined.. now half of your skyline is white as well. The main enemy you give blizzard attacks.. which is made by a lot of squiggly lines. Ikkakumon… is also white and the beams of the Yukidarumon/Frigimon fire.. are you guessed it.. white. I would not call it boring.. but everything feels very defined and sharp but for some reason I always get tired of watching it. Not bored persé.. but after some time.. I am just done with it.  It feels disorienting.. in a sense off.. that you don’t know who is where and in a scenario where that matters.. it just feels a bit harder to sit through.  As if my brain subconsciously just has to work that one step more..and it’s just slightly less pleasant.

Second issue I had was the final fight. Zudomon doesn’t feel as powerful as Garudamon, Weregarurumon or heck even Lillymon. The latters physical hits did not hurt but that grass thing seemed vastly powerful. Zudomon hammers a lot.. and while his lighting seems.. quite powerful, the enemy is in water when he uses it.. So it already would be amplified.. it doesn’t seem AS special as what the others did.  Ice and Snow have that frail quality, so smashing someone through a slab of ice feels weaker.. then blasting back a mountain destroying beam attack.  Zudomon’s fighting also felt a bit clunky.. for some reason he doesn’t digivolve into the form wielding his hammer.. he needs to summon it which takes time. Until then .. he kind of fills the role of a bit of a grappler and that always just looks more like punches, kicks or beams.  The scaling isn’t done as well as it has done before.

The Score

I am torn about the score this time. It’s either a very high Berry Good, or a Low tier Star Fruit.  In the end I think I will have to go or a Berry Good for me personally. That is mostly because I really do not care for snowy settings. I don’t have much against them but they do nothing FOR me. Then again I also did not like last  week’s setting.. this one is significantly better as an episode.. maybe even as a setting. I am not sure. I just think the fact that once I took a peek to show how far I was watching this episode puts it under the Star Fruit rank.. but only just.

This episode has such a strong narrative, a great style and to a lesser degree even consequence. Nothing major happens in terms of consequences but there is a logic chain of cause and effect. “You can walk or fly?” .. Of course “We will fly” is chosen. Consequence is a spent Piyomon.. resulting in Sora getting hurt. It feels right! Things are still straight forward.. but it fits. Characters think like younger people, they make mistakes , but also gamify! They revel in new experiences.. but also get into trouble for it so they all feel just so much more human! That humanity is what makes every episode shine so much for me and this one is not an exception! Had there been a fire monkey instead of a polar-bear/snowman I think it would have pushed the episode into a higher range for me.. but if your biggest gripe with an episode is that it’s “too white” you got a pretty good episode on your hands.

The Paradise Weekly Gazette 5: 7 December To 13 December

We are about half way through Steampunk month, with lots of fun things happening to me on a personal level as well! There were quite a few awesome blogs out there as well so let’s just give in! And of course I hope you all had a great week my dear Island Guests.

The Animinis

With only one downer of an episode the week of anime was very , very good! My least favourite view was Slime.. and had the next episode been as poor as the last two ones,  I would have dropped the series right before the end.. but luckily in next weeks review we can expect quite a bit more positivity!  My favourite watch this week was Cowboy Bebop, while there were two other star fruits this week.. one was questionable… but the evaluation will remain standing. The other was briljant as well so all in all! It was amazing! Want to find out which ones? Check out what I watched!

Digimon Adventure- Episode 14 – The King of Insects Clash

Samurai Flamenco – Episode 21 – Teaching Love

That Time I reincarnated as a Slime – Episode 20 – Yuuki Kagurazaka

Revolutionary Girl Utena – Episode 2- From Whom The Rose Smiles

Hikaru no Go – Episode 25 – Fear and Impatience

Natsume Book of Friends – Episode 5 – Heart Coloured Ticket

Cowboy Bebop – Episode 5 – Ballad of Fallen Angels

Pinkie’s Other Posts

Some of the staff are working on their projects for Steampunk month, others have become entangled in a web of responsibilities and of course amazing games to play! So I mostly helmed paradise by myself again this week. So what was I up too?!

Well I created my Own Pokémon Steampunk game! 

Then I played a Blimp that went into space!

I watched a bad movie but really really enjoyed it!

And in a Blog Tag I told how my Paradise works and asked Steampunk questions

Camp Coconut Updates

The trip to Amsterdam prevented me from taking a  proper look at Patreon instead of Kofi, so no progress has been made there. The Coconuts have been rather quiet and are probably hibernating for a bit until after christmas which is fine and perfectly understandable! I would also want to have a little spending money left for Christmas gifts!  For those wanting to answer the question, do Coconuts wear masks?! No! They don’t have lungs so they can’t catch the disease!  Coconuts for those who don’t know are my Kofi supporters.. they get a pokémonish style coconut that has a bit of lore.. and each time they donate .. a little event happens to them in these new updates! This is a new feature though so some Coconuts might not even know yet!

Posts that Impressed Pinkie

It is time to talk about the works of others again! I try to find some inspiring blogs but also good gossip.. Did you know this blogger returned from absence! Did you know this blogger is doing a big project?! Community stuff as well! Of course if you have a post that you really want me to recommend in this post feel free to reach out! After all I want to stimulate community interaction!

Celestial Sparkles Returned to blogging and I like her style a lot! I think starting today.. she will make 12 little posts of anime up untill the 25th.. I might be wrong about the starting date! Yet it is something to really look forward to!  After all she might be my favourite pony!

Mari is doing incredible essays on some of the story arcs surrounding characters in Fire Emblems Three houses!  While I try to just glance over them and avoid spoilers I can not be helped and I am drawn in by her choice of characters. This post was no exception!  There is some really amazing art in this post for you to see as well so if you are a fire emblem fan click on the picture!

Fred is always a great blogger! Yet when Fred talks about rockets and spaceship things, his posts become  quite magical! I normally imagine a wise  sage version  of Grey Fullbuster when he talks. .but when he talks about  rockets.. I imagine a young boy, sitting in front of those 60’s style pastel tinted tube tv’s!  Eating his cereal naked, while stars of joy twinkle in his eyes! I imagine not much would have changed!  Just  his size! And no I don’t mean this disrespectful or anything! I admire that being himself trait.. so I love how I see a “pure” part of him in these posts . He also knows a lot about that stuff so to offer you something that is not just gaming and anime related.. have some tech!

I am not a big manga reader, usually I browse Alyssa’s website mostly for the cute cover art and to read her stories about new ideas and I smile.. but sometimes a cover pops up and I think I need to read that.. usually if covers are 30% pink it will do that! After reading her review I am more eager to actually read this one! Okay.. it technically was posted on Sunday last week.. but I write these ahead of time so Sunday posts always get missed!

Pinkie Away From Keyboard

So real life has been a bit slow for me, except of course for my trip to Amsterdam. So yeah the rest of the week I have been mostly doing me and resting, some cleaning, putting up some christmas decorations, self reflection and a lot of long showers .. and plenty of migraines. So that also means I did not get a lot of blogging done unfortunately. I experienced a lack of inspiration for the really creative stuff, so  I have mostly been trying to pick up some games again. I started to play Temtem, a bit again.. though only very minimally. I dropped Dishonored as I just could not get into the game and currently I am trying a really hard Steampunk RPG game..I can’t leave the starting area yet.

Now for Amsterdam, I will spare you all the med talk!  A friend of mine tagged along and we booked a hotel close to the hospital. A test run for later.. if I need to go there more and have early appointments.. I am trying out some cheaper hotels near and this one was pretty nice.  It had an all you can eat restaurant, with a  cocktail bar (though with restricted serving times due to covid banning alcohol after 8 pm). We ate at the restaurant for the first time in like 4 months or so .. so it was nice to experience and be spoiled a bit. However the hotel was a bit understaffed so there was a lot of stress on the kitchen! That showed on the plate.  The food was nice.. but there was so much delay.. and some things were cold or out of stock and so on!   Shame.. .but all in all it was a nice experience still! Breakfast was included as well and was quite cute! Normally you have a breakfast buffet.. but it isn’t covid proof so now we just had lots of stuff brought to our table and more of us being spoiled! I really liked that!

So the day afterwards we went to do some fun stuff in Amsterdam.. to combine the bitter and the sweet a bit. Since my friend is a huge horror buff we went to the Dungeon of Amsterdam. It is a museum based on the formula of the tower of London.. it tells the horror stories of Amsterdam’s history..  like seeing ghost stories from our trading seafaring days, visiting bars from Amsterdam’s victorian age, where you get tricked into servitude. Or stand on trial for interactive witch courts. It’s an interactive theater museum experience and that it is pretty darn fun! Then my friend wanted  to go for a bit of shopping, so we visited a few pop culture stores. I almost got a Hello Kitty Face Mask.. but I imagined it would be really annoying to have that bow in front of my eye!  So I then went to a Manga store and got really tempted to  buy some Love Live Mystery bag.. but none had big items so I passed!  I don’t need 23 buttons!  On my way I got in a small fight , (not really physical)  with a hooker! I stopped in front of her window to look at my map and she got out and began pushing me aside and I panicked and slapped her hand away. She then began being verbal.. and I already said sorry for blocking her from sight.. when she got needlessly verbal I got annoyed and poked back!  That would have looked cuter with a Hello Kitty mask!

Plans

Content Stress!

So Steampunk week is a bit shaky for the next week. I tried to make a Pokémon post but I did not have a strong idea, so I am more than likely skipping the Pokémon post this week! Luckily I have all the anime content to fall back on! I might post it later that week!  But expect my non anime content to be a bit more near the end of next week! Two projects fell through for me so I need a bit more content experience! I wanted to do Dishonor but the game doesn’t do anything for me! I don’t find it bad.. I am kind of entertained by it.. but not really.  I just have nothing to tell about it or no drive to really play it! That will not result in an interesting bit of text! So let’s hope I can make a new character in Arcanum I can progress with!

And that’s the week! Do you have any great plans for next week?! How was THIS week?! Let me know in the comments! Oh and have a great next week of course… Now for the most important question to my readers! If you ever find yourself lost in Amsterdam and bullied by a lady of the oldest profession in the world?! How would you respond! Let me know! I was about to kick her in the heels and run if she got more viscous.. but I would probably be billed!

Animini: Cowboy Bebop – Episode 5 – Ballad of Fallen Angels

Steamed Hams and steamed hello’ my sweet Island Guests! Closing of the week has never been as exciting as before I watched cowboy Bebop! Of course I have already watched this episode before sunday.. so it’s more of a metaphor but still! This show is really really good! This episode is easily the best one so far. With a dark broody tone .. and what I assume will be the series villain being introduced. I vaguely remember being spoiled by the “Bang” scene  and I think I saw that guy! Not sure and please don’t confirm or deny.. Yet.. boy.. did I have some fun this week! 

The Summary

The episode begins with a shady deal between two mob-like boss figures making a treaty of sorts. One looking a bit friendlier and human than the other.  They are in his house when the deal is closed when he sees his guest leave.. he also sees the man is blown up!  Then strangers walk into his house and hold his neck against a Katana. A man named Vicious shows up.. though the name is only revealed later. With a little motion he has the man known as Mao Yenrai executed.  Unbeknownst to Jet that this bounty has become inaccessible he finds himself at odds with Spike.. who doesn’t want to take this bounty for unknown reasons. The lack of transparency  vexes Jet.. while Faye walks in after a successful shopping trip, showing she has now fully joined the crew. I like how that happened. It makes it feel a bit more natural. Spike walks off angrily and goes planetside to walk it off.  There he meets a shopkeeper named Annie, shocked to see Spike alive. Apparently he had connections with her and Mao in the past.. and this Vicious  guy seems to be part of the same organisation as Mao.. as the guy spoke of betrayal.. I am not sure.. but I think that was what happend.

Faye however does not know about all this backstory and just sees a high bounty number so she decides to try and capture Mao.. and she finds herself being overwhelmed by a surprisingly well prepared Vicious and his mobsters. He must have one heck of a source.  She gets captured and Spike goes back to the Bebop .. but is armed by Annie.. now goes to stop Vicious.. there seems to be a lot of past between these two.  The meet is in an old church.. that I think will also be the scene for the final episode.. but I am not sure!   A shootout happens and Faye manages to escape while Spike pursues Vicious.. not letting a few gunshot wounds stop him. Faye calls Jet for help not wanting to see Spike get killed and the man reluctantly goes to rescue his friend. Who fights Vicious in front of a stained glass window. The two have a mexican standoff but instead of rolling away like gentlemen and resetting the fight.. both take the killshot.. missing because both get harmed. Spike gets stabbed and Vicious gets shot… but Vicious manages to throw Spike out the window towards his death.. but the quick fingers of Spike allow him to leave a grenade behind.. As Spike falls to his death.. his life flashes in front of his eyes..showing shards of the story of him and vicious and a blonde girl that I think got killed by Vicious.  The church explodes.. and Spike’s vision goes dark.. he Remembers the blond woman singing to him.. but it is actually Faye watching over him on the Bebop.. he calls her tonedeaf and she punches him with a pillow and tosses cards on him an ace of space is used as a recurring symbol.

The Positives

Almost everything was spectacular in this episode. Every single set piece carried so much weight. The opera house, the house of the Mafia guy , the tiny little store, the church. It brings so many layers of society to the table. It shows people linked in the past are at very different places now. It also fills in some of the classic Film Noir tropes quite well. Which really gives this episode so much atmosphere and weight. It feels important just because of how things unfold.  We see heavier use of visual metaphors with the ace of spade, the flashbacks, the dramatic slow motions. the bigger close up on the eyes.  It all has been seemingly designed to carry weight.. to feel big. I do not realise yet what the full scope of this is.. but it all feels some more relevant than Twinkle Maria last week! The stakes are higher here.. this matters more and it oozes out of every pore of this episode.  From the way Vicious is designed but brought into frame that clearly to the sepia filter of Spike’s memories.  The implications that Spike now knows?! Was he a criminal before as well? What caused him to fake his death.. is this blond woman really dead? I assume so.. but  the film follows classic Noir Archetypes.. so you never know. 

I really enjoyed how the action felt once again.  The guns seem to really have a kick to them.  Characters hold still to fire, even when running towards their opponent there is this moment where they let the gun do the talking.. and it seems much more subjected to real life forces. Not always.. but the way bullets shoot church pews away, how different weapons are used at the same time and how they interact with the environment differently makes this fight have such an impact. In 90% of the anime mobs all use the same gun and half of the time it makes just a few sparks people jump over.. here Spike has to run dip and dodge depending on that type of arm his enemies have. It just ands so much oomph to the action.  The explosion from the church also was pretty amazing…. granted I do not think the explosion should be that big given how the first grenade exploded.. but the falling out of the window scene.. with the shards of glass chasing Spike as his eyes dim.. was one heck of a well done “action” scene.  So much motion and it really felt as if everything had different weight when falling.  I really love that sense of materialism.. that this show has..  it’s not so much.. how do we make this look cool.. but more Hollywood.. where I can see this in live action much more than most anime.. that sounds like a determinant..but not for this show..  not for me.

The Negatives

The downsides of this episode are ones I really had to look for with a fine toothed comb. The first is that I kind of dislike that Vicious knows about Faye Valentine.  Unless Jet is a traitor of sorts which I highly doubt right now.. It doesn’t feel like it’s knowledge he should have.  Then again she has been shopping on the planet..but assuming her association with Spike seems just that tiny bridge too far. Just like how big that final explosion was.  It works in the confines of this world but it felt like just a tad much. I would have preferred she gave up her association with Spike herself.. then when he rushed in to save her.. she regretted it prompting her to call Jet.. now Vicious feels a bit high and mighty.. considering what we have seen other people in his position do with their power. Minor  thing though.

There are a few more things like this such as Faye being able to have her spaceship equipped with gun turrets land in front of a high prestige opera house seems like something these worlds should have a counter for. The shoplifting  boys seem a bit to dumb.. why would you steal the same nudy magazine as your buddy.. in that case one of you goes to pay for a paper plane and let someone else steal the bigger item… while you distract to she shop keep (yeah I stole something as kid once or twice…)   much better strategy!  The kids did not fully feel like kids!  Yet that is me really nitpicking.. it’s all just super fun and exciting to go through and some minor weird things in no way decrease that joy.

The Score

This was by far the best thing I watched this week! And I actually had a pretty good week!   With two other Star Fruits and lots of Berry Goods.  Yet since this one is my favourite I bet you can guess what grade it is going to be!  It was so good!  Not only did it show us the past and wet our appetites for a bigger puzzle, I think it might also have foreshadowed things as well.  Let’s not forget that indian prediction in episode 1. He would meet a woman that would lead to death.. it can be referred to the cowboy woman of episode 1 but now I think.. this blonde chick will show up again and it will lead to Spike’s death! I am not sure.. that’s just what I think. This episode got me super excited!

I have to shout out the music as well , it felt really different from what we saw before.. again establishing those higher stakes through everything. Story, visuals and sound design all come and tell us what to feel and I love that kind of thing!  Where visuals and sounds are not just used to establish grandeur..even though here it does.. but also convey an emotion. This episode doesn’t only feel big.. it feels important.. it feels deeper. I want to see more!

Animini: Natsume Book of Friends – Episode 5 – Heart Colored Ticket

The Heck is a Heart Coloured Ticket…?!  I thought I would know after this episode but no! I still don’t know! There is a ticket.. and there is love.. but I do not agree with this title. I would have called it Bootleg Totoro and the Fish..  but then again that might be disrespectful! I don’t mean it like that though.. but it really is about a Totoro thing that is not Totoro … and a fish! I kind of loved it!

The Summary

The episode begins with Natsume roaming in a box of his grandmothers stuff, each time he runs a name he gets part of her memories and he is curious about her life.. or so he claims.. from a Library book she forgot to return drops a train ticket.. leading to a now out of use station. Natsume decides to investigate the ticket the next day. That day Natsume’s classmates fight on how to eat something which I think is chicken.. I have no idea but they call it Kitsune.. I don’t think they are eating fox but well.. they don’t see eye to eye on how to eat this meal thing and decide to separate and never be friends again. Sasada then comes poking her nose into Natsume’s business! What is that ticket? What are you going to do with it? Can I come?!  I wanna see one?!  Stuff like that. Natsume doesn’t want to get the girl that wants to spend time with him around.. so he is super glad the priest’s son distracts her long enough so he can sneak away from her on the bus. (Kind of a dickish bus driver). I kind of want Natsume to like this girl! I like having her positive energy around!

Sasada gets left behind though and Natsume travels to an abandoned station where he finds Santo.. a big furry hippo like Yokai that walks on two legs and dances around and reminds me a lot of Totoro.  Just.. more vocal and less eloquent.  Santo is a friendly Yokai who waits on this station because he got in an argument with a friend once who told them to leave and never return. Reiko met Santo and he gave him her name.. which we find out caused the conflict between the two. Santo gets his name returned and Natsume finds out through her memories that she promised Santo to take him to go see his friend Mikuri the next day. She never delivered on the promises though so Natsume takes Santo to do so. However since years have passed now.. Mikuri became bitter and possessed by Earth Spirits, enlarging his negativity. As a result the forest tries to stop their approach. Mikuri corrupted a huge catfish and Madara fights him  while Natsume and Santo yell at Mikuri to stop! Then the fish possessed by rage tries to steal the book.. but Santo protects it!  A combination of both seemed to work and the still quite angry Mikuri is reunited with his friend.  While Natsume tries to settle their fight he realizes they already settled their fight and are just arguing because they are friends. The next day in school his two classmates are all buddy buddy again and Sasada asks him what happened.  The priest’s son whose name I completely am blacking out on.. gets thanked for the help the day before leaving Sasda clueless still.

The Positives

I really liked Santo and Mikuri , once again the design and flavouring of these Yokai is done very nicely and satisfyingly. The whole  super dumb anime character might be a trope I do not always enjoy, Santo brings so much innocence to it.. but also a form of challenge. He knows what he wants to say .. but he is just too dim witted to express himself leaving Natsume without some valuable much needed information. So he must find a way to work around that. Thus the humor of this episode is actually in service of the story and I am very fond of that type of design. Do not build in jokes because you need a funny moment, make moments you need to tell funny. It offers a lot more charm. Santo being one of the most innocent things you have ever seen is also a nice contrast with the Yokai we have seen normally here. No harm from others befalls upon him.. there is no evil spirit or priest causing him pain. Santo’s worst enemy is Santo himself.. and the promises he made. He never went to look for Mikuri because he promised Reiko  to wait for her and because Mikuri said he could not come anymore. That’s just the type of guy he is and he is in his own way.

I also really like the whole premise of Natsume wanting to dig deeper into his relatives’ past and using a box of memories along with the book that apparently is also filled with memories  is an interesting way to do this. It gives a few puzzle elements and I have been wondering how Reiko was a person. I for now think she was a pretty bad person but Natsume seems to refuse to believe this. She completely forgot about poor Santo though!  I am curious to see where this will go and in fairness the show so far has not done much in terms of establishing an overarching narrative. This could be the first step towards that and if so I am quite on board with this.

The Negatives

I did not like how Natsume ignored Sasada in the last episode, and I do not like here either.  It’s a nice girl that is interested in you and believes in you.. she wants that connection my guy and you have shown to want that sort of connection as well.  I always have trouble with characters that go through self imposed misery and feel depressed for being alone.. but then when  a person wants to be their friend they ignore them.. While Natsume isn’t nearly hypocritical enough for me to actually dislike it.. I see enough of this self imposed negativity to enjoy it less then when Sasada would have played a bigger part. I think her positive behaviour is a welcome addition to Natsume’s more down behaviour.  At the same time though Natsume doing this alone lets the Yokai shine a lot as he doesn’t have a strong personality.. so the spirits always take the spotlight! That has value as well.

The second gripe I had with this episode is in its resolution. The Catfish versus Cat fight  felt a bit sloppy. Tentacles were bitten and pulled..  Elongated cat demon gets snared but transforms.. then bites the fish again.. but then it looks like the fish also bites him.. but maybe its not because suddenly the fish goes poof! ?I had no real idea what was going on there. Natsume was quite badly animated while  wrapped by a tentacle as well. It all just felt a bit muddy and thrown in for some action. I honestly preferred the fight with the earth spirit and the mysterious fog on the tracks. One bad fight scene however does not ruin an episode. Especially when it’s so short.  I would have liked to see more Santo protecting the book though. That might have been the trigger what caused Mikuri to be healed but it at least wasn’t fully clear to me.

The Score

While not a perfect score episode I really had a lot of fun with this episode.  Santo is an adorable character and even Mikuri in his original form is quite adorable. The evil forest chase was very entertaining and.. just Santo being Santo , eating poisoned berries and all it just made me smile. It had little impact all in all but I was still very entertained. It just had a few scenes for me personally that did not resolve in a way I would have preferred. It’s a silver or bronze type situation instead of gold. Still a winner though.

My biggest peeve here is how Sasada was offsided here, and I am afraid I will see a fair bit more of that in the future. I just do not like the lonely character wallowing in their loneliness by shutting off good people.  It really irks me and I have little sympathy for them. As long as this show doesn’t try to invoke sympathy for him being so alone.. I will not have much of a problem , other than just being a bit bitter here and there.. but if they do and try to invoke sympathy while he shuts people out.. that will be a sure fire for me to grow and dislike him as a character. Nothing wrong yet just reporting some symptoms for now. Great episode with just a few concerns. Like.. how was that ticket heart-coloured?

Animini: Hikaru no Go – Episode 25 – Fear and Impatience

Steaming Springs and Sprockets! This anime is just so good! This episode is quite amazing. My dear Island guests I am super happy I started Hikaru no Go.. it is such a humble show.. with such real problems.. it should be boring me to tears because I still don’t understand Go that well.. but I am truly fascinated.  I loved how this episode brought us a conflict that wasn’t really set up…yet makes so much sense in the context of where the journey is going currently! It’s amazing!

The Summary

Hikaru is stuck against a wall again. He has mostly been getting losses recently and isn’t progressing anymore. His chart does show a few wins  but things aren’t going that smoothly. Waya notices this and invites him to join a game session with his masters and some pro’s. Hikaru thinks this is boring but Sai forces him to do so. While waiting for their first session to begin.. Hikaru encounters Ogata in the main lobby when he gets cold feet to join the pro’s.  This leads Hikaru to be invited to the pro-workshop of Meiji Touya where Akira also will be. Hikaru refuses this.. he does not want to train with Akira.. but FOR Akira. Sai cries as Hikaru refuses.. but then Waya steps in , takes them to  meet his teacher and Hikaru feels quite overwhelmed and uncomfortable.  We also get talk of some tournament.. where young pro’s fight Insei! Hikaru wishes to participate and face Akira…but he then finds out he has to become number 16 of class one to even participate.. the pressure is on.

We cut to Hikaru losing a lot of matches and dropping all the way to the bottom of class two again. Dejected we see him get a Soda while listening to another Insei.. much older than him giving up hope to become a pro!  Seeing this inspires Hikaru to try harder… but victories aren’t coming to him. Sai knows why! It is because Hikaru is facing off against an opponent as strong as Sai.. he  punishes every mistake.. and because of that Hikaru has taken a much too defensive playstyle.. He doesn’t risk anything and because of that he can be countered and beaten rather easily! He needs courage in his moves again. Sai trains this in Hikaru and we see the boy perform better and better in the workshop! One day his old teacher, who is part of the workshop , challenges Hikaru to a match! Hikaru now fights with more courage as he goes in for the attack.

The Positives

It has been a while but Sai really comes in clutch for this episode. We finally see him again in the capacity of Hikaru’s teacher, which before was mostly implied to happen offscreen instead.  I am happy we finally see us get some mileage out of Sai as well. It even got some nice set up with the topic of teachers being discussed, thus once again the show slides into its subject matter in a very organic way. The lesson we learn today feels like it’s fits.. because we build up to it. Even though Hikaru’s wall is a completely new obstacle and mostly used as a narrative crutch to probably let him become a lot stronger a lot faster.. the show makes it feel earned. Hikaru training with Sai to master a new step of mastery of the game feels satisfying on all levels. We also see Akira is not bothered by his loss… also showing he has grown!  He handled losses poorly in the past… REALLY poorly yet here we see a much more complex Akira, one that is much more following his own path. He doesn’t care about Oza, he cares about staying ahead of those currently behind him. Losses don’t matter because Akira’s goal lies behind him. Hikaru experiences the reverse. losses matter because his goal lies in front of him.

The last episode I complained about not using any metaphorical visuals.. which can make scenes a bit bland and sterile.. and lo and behold this episode uses visual metaphors. We see Hikaru and Sai battle with Katana’s on that neon version of the Go Board that signifies important matches. THANK YOU that is all I wanted from last week’s episode. This episode is visually so much more interesting than the previous one.  We get less subtle references.. but there is also much less at stake here.. but we get a lot more colour, interesting set pieces, visual metaphors and just all kinds of goodness to keep us with the action. The cast this episode also has a bit more oomph and flavor..  they are more definable to me as.. moustachio man that writes stuff.  The presentation is up by a lot.

The Negatives

Not really any negatives for me this week, just pointers that could have made this episode even better. The first element they could have done is .. not have Sai cry when Hikaru refused to play with Meijn and Akira.Sai lives in Hikaru’s head .. he should know how Hikaru feels , plus there was never really any sense of loss, he would still see pro’s play games.  It is just not THE pro. With Sai realising that Hikaru’s current level has stagnated I feel like he should be smart enough to realise this and him crying once again played for comedy.  I know the man is excited about the sports.. but he is also fascinated by all levels of it.. this felt a bit..ungrateful or something. Nothing too bad, it doesn’t feel like the same Sai we see for the rest of the episode. 

I do still think that the show has too many characters to juggle around. Ogata pushing the rivalry between Hikaru and Akira seems a bit strange but somewhat fascinating.. but now we get Waya’s teacher and his group and we have Mejin’s  workshop click as well, along with the girl Insei now showing up more regularly.. and that boy that really looks like Weevil Underwood from Insei class. It really helps the world of Go feeling large but it also really invokes.. “Wait who is that again”.. and the moment you start thinking you move out of the episode a bit.  Maybe a flashback here or there for the viewer could have come in handy.  This will probably be less of an issue if you binge this show a bit.. but since there usually is a week before I watch these ( I tend to watch them on Saturdays unless I have no time)   if someone doesn’t show up for a couple of weeks all is kind of vague.  A name sign appearing or a flashback could really benefit this cast.. even add some details like rank and stuff. Great info would make the show a bit easier to follow.

The Score

Episode 25 of Hikaru no Go once again gets my highest grade.  Despite Sai crying is a weak scene, I can not say anything but positive about the rest of the episode. It offers a new obstacle.. a new element in the Go puzzle! Emotion! Hikaru must not just play with his head but also with his heart. Otherwise he will get ruled by fear.. and while I do not understand it in terms of Go .. I do know lots of gamers both analogue as digital who are held back by fear who I can wash because I dare to take risks. They play games a lot better than me but because they play the meta.. they become predictable and that can be punished. So I am happy to see the show also addresses this aspect of the game. It makes sense Hikaru becomes super careful from facing superiority all the time. 

There is also yet another subtle reference in this. Akira has his father as a teacher, he  trains the same way Hikaru trains.. but Sai acknowledges that Akira does not share the same flaw as Hikaru. This establishes that Akira still is pretty far ahead..  Because the Insei Akira they faced in the first episode… or at least in the rematch.. was already past this point.  In a way Hikaru is at least one year of Akira’s pace development away from Akira himself. This episode does show that he grows faster though..They will come to clash.. a sense of inevitability is established in this episode.. but when it happens will all depend on if Hikaru can make his current deadline .. adding tension for the future!